Unite has condemned the latest decision on Friday night (October 6) by the Department of Commerce in an escalating trade dispute between aerospace firms Boeing and Bombardier, which saw the US government authority slap an additional 80 per cent tariff on Bombardier’s C-series commercial jet, whose wings are manufactured in Belfast.
The move follows another ruling by the Department of Commerce two weeks ago, when Bombardier was hit with a 220 per cent tariff, bringing total fines to 300 per cent.
Unite has been lobbying the UK government from the beginning to use its leverage with Boeing to force the company to back down in what it regards as “corporate bullying”.
On Wednesday (October 11) a group of Unite reps will meet with a cross-party delegation of MPs to make clear the importance of Bombardier – the largest private sector employer in Northern Ireland – to the region.
The anti-dumping tariffs imposed on Bombardier come after rival Boeing claimed Bombardier benefited from state subsidies, which enabled the company to sell its C-series to Delta airlines at cheaper prices.
Unite regional coordinating officer Davy Thompson criticised the latest decision by the Department of Commerce, saying that the decision was “disappointing but not unexpected.”
“In the context of rising protectionism, US authorities appear intent on taking every opportunity to impose punitive tariffs on Bombardier,” he said.
Unite has argued that Boeing’s claim is without merit and has only sought to crush perfectly legitimate competition. After all, Boeing was not materially harmed by the Delta order – it did not even put in a bid for the contract. Its claims are also hypocritical – Boeing itself has received billions in subsidies from the US government.
The two decisions which bring the total tariffs up to 300 per cent will be reviewed by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) in February , which may overturn the preliminary rulings.
If the rulings are upheld, the future of the C-Series jet, and thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland, would be at risk.
“While we remain confident that this ruling will be overturned, if not in February when this preliminary ruling is reviewed, then by the World Trade Organisation in coming years, tariffs on this scale are designed to maximise the financial pressure on Bombardier in the meantime by effectively closing the US market to its flagship C-Series programme,” Thompson highlighted.
He explained that Bombardier is unfairly being punished for investing in innovation.
“Boeing recognises that Bombardier’s multi-billion pound investment in a blank-page redesign of commercial aircraft has resulted in a line that is superior in terms of space, quality, reliability and fuel economy to Boeing’s decades-old designs,” Thompson noted.
“Institutions such as the International Trade Commission and Department of Commerce which project themselves as guardians of the free market are now proactively closing the US markets by raising protectionist barriers to new and superior market entrants,” he added.
Fighting for jobs
As ever, Unite is leaving no stone unturned as it fights to protect 4,000 jobs at five different Bombardier sites in Northern Ireland and the many thousands more in the wider supply chain.
“Unite the union’s focus remains with safeguarding the jobs and the skills base,” Thompson said.
He estimated that in addition to the 4,000 direct Bombardier jobs, there are approximately 20,000 whose jobs are sustained by the stimulus provided by the workers’ wages and the wider procurement associated with the company.
Unite will be ramping up its campaigning this week as reps meet with MPs and further pressure the government to act.
The union has highlighted that the UK government is not without leverage — UK defence spending with Boeing runs into the billions.
Thompson said reps will “raise the significance of these jobs for Northern Ireland and the need for the government to make real their warnings to Boeing” when they meet on Wednesday (October 11).
“The time for verbal warnings has now passed – the government must fully use their multi-billion pound leverage to defend UK jobs.”
Stay tuned on UNITElive this week as Unite Bombardier reps meet with MPs to press their case.